Preserving our communities through responsible and sustainable planning.

Update on Point Wells Draft EIS

The RCBA meeting on April 12 featured a presentation by Mr. Ryan Countryman, the Point Wells Project Manager for the Snohomish County Planning and Development Services Department.  Mr. Countryman gave an update on the progress of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed development at Point Wells.

Mr. Countryman explained that the purpose of the EIS is to identify probable adverse impacts that are a result of the development, and to propose mitigation to reduce the impact as much as possible. The County is talking to the City of Shoreline, Woodway, and local fire, sewer, water, and school districts to get their input on potential impacts and possible mitigation.

Mr. Countryman is not responsible for writing the EIS, that responsibility lies with a team of consultants hired by the developer, BSRE; Mr. Countryman’s role is to make sure the material submitted by the consultants is complete, is done in an acceptable manner, and follows all the codes and regulations in effect at the time the proposal was submitted in early 2011. There is also a second set of consultants who are doing a peer review to make sure the EIS is complete.

The EIS process has several stages. The report will first be issued as a Draft EIS (DEIS), followed by a 45 day period for the public to comment on the DEIS. The developer may choose to make changes to the project as a result of issues raised in the DEIS or in public comments. The developer and County must respond to every public comment, with the response included as part of the Final EIS (FEIS). While the FEIS identifies potential problems and describes ways to make the problems smaller,  it will not make any final decisions; that will done by a Hearing Examiner who will use the material in the FEIS to decide whether the project can proceed, including what mitigation is required or whether other restrictions are placed on the project. Mr. Countryman said the current plan is to release the DEIS sometime this summer with the FEIS following about a year later.

Mr. Countryman finished by taking questions from the audience.

Q: What is the best case/worst case situation for Pt. Wells?
A: This is the largest application in Snohomish County in the last 20 years. For large projects, it’s typical for the review process to result in many changes to the original proposal, but it’s very likely that there will be some kind of mixed use development at Pt. Wells at some point in the future.

Q: Why is the County allowing the EIS to be done when the proposal does not meet the County’s 2 access road standards?
A: The County has asked the developer to answer that question, but it has not received an answer yet. The County decided to proceed for now anyway

Q: Is the County looking at the stability of the slope immediately to the east of the project site and will that affect whether a second access road can be built?
A: Yes, the County is aware of the steep slope but believes it is possible to build a road up the slope, though it would be very expensive.

Q: Can the County assure us that building a road up the slope will not increase the chance of a landslide?
A: We have to trust that the EIS process will figure that out.

Q: What is the status of the annexation question?
A: While the City of Shoreline has consistently asked the County to allow annexation, County policy strongly discourages cross-county annexation. The County does want someone to annex Pt. Wells, but who that will be is a good question.

Q: Will the Oso landslide result in any changes that will apply to Pt. Wells?
A: No, state vesting rules require the County to apply rules as they existed in 2011 when the application was submitted.

Q: Would a revision to the project that added a second access road need to follow current landslide regulations?
A: No one knows – this is a very difficult question. Snohomish County needs to see a revised application that includes a second access road before it can determine which regulations to use.

Q: Why not just reject the application since it does not meet parking or access road standards?
A: The developer has multiple ways of addressing these issues: they could add more parking, or reduce the number of units, or ask for a deviation from the standard. Of course a change to fix problem A might cause a new problem B with some other standard. Ultimately, the developer paid the application fees so deserves a complete review even if the project currently has problems.

Q: Is it unusual for a developer to take so long to submit the EIS material?
A: There are other projects that take a long time to get started, so that’s not unusual. The process for Pt. Wells is going slowly, but progress has been steady.

We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of the EIS. Mr. Countryman noted that when the DEIS is issued and the public is allowed to comment, it helps for those comments to be as specific as possible. We are working with the other neighborhood groups on ways to get you ready do that, so expect more information about that soon.

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